Heart Of Sky, Heart Of Earth
Six young Maya present a wholly indigenous perspective, in which all life is sacred and connected, as they resist the destruction of their culture and environment.
Directed by Frauke Sandig and Eric Black
Produced by Umbrella Films
Writer: Frauke Sandig and Eric Black
Translation of Popol Vuh inspired by Allen Christenson
Editor: Grete Jentzen
Music: Arturo Pantaleón, Götz Naleppa, Zoe Keating, Sak Tzevul, José Luis Vaca "Chelo"
Featured at over 100 international film festivals including every Central and South American Human Rights film festival, HEART OF SKY, HEART OF EARTH follows six young Maya in Guatemala and Chiapas through their daily and ceremonial life. They put forth a wholly indigenous Mayan perspective in their own words, without narration. Their cosmology, in which all life is sacred and interconnected, presents a deeply compelling alternative to the prevailing worldview.
"An exquisitely, achingly beautiful film--wonderfully conceived and sensitively filmed" Allen J. Christenson, Professor of Humanities, Brigham Young University
As giant corporations go to the ends of the earth to extract all resources, these Maya reveal their determination to resist the destruction of their culture and environment. they believe they are the guardians of the earth. Each of their stories touches upon a facet of the current global crisis.
Beautifully filmed, the intimate accounts of the protagonists interweave with images associated with the fragile beauty of nature and the creation myth of the Popol Vuh. Ruins of a former Mayan civilization stand in the background as harbingers of our own possible fate.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2013
Copyright Date: 2011
DVD ISBN: 1-93777-245-4
"In the vivid, colorful imagery of landscape, village life, and authentic ritual, all of it narrated in engaging and exacting language, we watch the old teaching the young, just as their ancestors taught them, not only about where their world came from but also how they can play a decisive role in determining its course. Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth offers all of us concrete lessons for all humanity to follow."
Anthony Aveni, Professor of Astronomy, Anthropology, and Native American Studies, Colgate University, Author, The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012
"Through stunning cinematography and a conscientious lens, Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth evokes the deep beauty of Mesoamerican landscapes alongside harsh present-day realities...An essential film for understanding the cultural tenacity that will continue to be decisive in determining how people confront the profound challenges at hand."
Dr. James Loucky, Professor of Anthropology, Western Washington University
"The film wisely downplays speculation concerning the ephemeral 2012 phenomenon and instead offers viewers privileged glimpses into the millennial cultures of extraordinarily diverse living Maya peoples...Maya from more than a half dozen ethnicities share their personal struggles to maintain their values in the face of severe racism, state-sponsored genocide, environmental degradation and cultural loss. The unflinching display of this cataclysmic destruction contrasts harshly with the staggering beauty of the Maya region and its still-vibrant human heritage."
Robert K. Sitler, Director of Latin American Studies, Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, Stetson University, Author, The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012
"This sensitive and beautiful film penetrates into the very heart of today's Maya culture and describes the challenges faced by these indigenous peasants in their daily struggles to maintain their ethnic identity and to resist the global forces that threaten their survival as a distinct people. The film draws on Maya oral traditions, contemporary customs and lifestyles, economic conflicts and social movements, to provide the viewer with a broad picture as well as telling details of the descendants of one of the world's great civilizations who refuse to disappear."
Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Researcher-Professor at Colegio de Mexico, Founder of Mexican Academy of Human Rights, Former Deputy Director General of UNESCO
"An exquisitely, achingly beautiful film--wonderfully conceived and sensitively filmed. I particularly appreciated the references to ancestral dreams and memories, sequences that ring truer than any film I've ever seen on Maya spirituality...The sequences on the war were particularly poignant. One of the communities I lived in for 6 months was completely wiped out--I still don't know if anyone survived. It is my sincerest hope that some lived to tell their stories like the wonderful people in this film. What strikes me is the resilience of the Maya in the face of powerful and concerted efforts to destroy or alter it. I was profoundly affected by this film and will carry many of its images with me to the end of my days."
Allen J. Christenson, Professor of Humanities, Classics and Comparative Literature, Brigham Young University, Author, Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya
"Visually stunning...This film would be of great interest to students of anthropology, sociology, environmental science, Latin American politics, and filmmaking."
Jennifer Little, Associate Professor, Department of Visual Arts, University of the Pacific
"A beautiful, powerful, and often painful documentary...Within this film, Mayan voices bear witness to the catastrophic damage to human lives caused by powerful political agendas as well as unconstrained resource extraction. Confronting the greedy appetite of global conglomerates, we are forced to reckon with the violent legacy and continuing toll of colonialism in a place where beauty and brutality walk hand-in-hand."
Patricia McAnany, Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Author, Ancestral Maya Economies in Archaeological Perspective
"Indigenous Mayan worldview, music, art, and narrative are presented without external commentary in an outstanding film that is both moving and educational. The photography is magnificent, the editing outstanding, and the message concerning some of the forces that are currently at work destroying the earth for all of us, and for indigenous peoples in particular, is very timely."
Brian Stross, Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas
"An extraordinary documentary, Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth is a bold and living testament to Maya cosmovision: that humans must live in harmony with the earth or we will perish...Beautifully-filmed, it will serve as a compelling warning of our global crisis and as a springboard for educators at many levels and in many fields, including indigenous and religious studies, anthropology and Latin American Studies, environmental and cultural studies."
Dr. Jean Molesky-Poz, Lecturer of Religious Studies, Santa Clara University, Author, Contemporary Maya Spirituality: The Ancient Ways Are Not Lost
"It is quite possible our great corporations will succeed in finishing nature off and plant genetically modified corn over its burnt out remains. It is quite possible they will intimidate and expel the indigenous from their lands. On the other hand, resistance is growing. Many young Maya now read their calendar quite differently. They say the world will not go under. It will start anew, but we all have to fight for it, here and now. If one is searching for impressive evidence of this tenacious determination, Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth is it."
Thomas Assheuer, Die Zeit (The Times)
"A powerful story of resistance...Demonstrates how the indigenous fight for survival is a fight for social and environmental justice. This film helps to expand the understanding of indigenous peoples, the nature of resistance in various forms, and why we are all connected in this fight for survival. I heartily recommend this film and believe it would be excellent for classes addressing indigenous peoples, globalization, human rights, and social justice."
Beth Williford, Manhattanville College, Societies Without Borders: Human Rights and the Social Sciences Journal
"Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth is strongly recommended viewing for those with a concern about the environment and seeking more perspectives."
The Midwest Book Review
"A lovely and important film...We are compelled to ponder not only other peoples' horrible impressions of us but the damage we are doing to earth where we have to live. Western/Christian scholars and policymakers have mocked native peoples for their 'animism,' but anthropology has lately rediscovered the 'relationality' that underlies animism and traditional religions in general, and such relationality - with or without the 'spirituality' - may be all that can save us from ourselves. Level/Use: Suitable for high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, anthropology of religion, anthropology of development, anthropology of endangered cultures, and Latin American studies, as well as for general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database
"A caustic critique of the ecological destruction caused by mining and deforestation in Mexico and Guatemala...The spirit of Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth is more elegiac than angry-expressing a mournful yet dignified attitude toward those who cannot comprehend the consequences of their destruction. Recommended."
"Stunning natural landscapes, vibrant native dress, and awe-inspiring ancient Mayan architecture...There is good material here to stimulate discussions about the importance of preserving tradition and the planet's resources."
Ryan Henry, Daviess Co. Public Library, School Library Journal
"The testimony of the peole and local activists, and the images that accompany them, are moving and profound, especially those of the women - the way they speak out for their traditions is a powerful counterblast to other current religious movements that seek to silence women...This documentary raises the question - has our version of humanity (the corn humans) confused itself with the gods and hence set in motion our own fall?...Powerful film."
John Billingsley, Northern Earth Magazine
Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish, and scene selection. Can be played in two parts for classroom use.
The film's website
Awards and Festivals
Masters Section, IDFA Amsterdam
First Prize, Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival, Toronto
First Prize/Pukañawi Award, Festival Int'l de Cine de los Derechos Humanos (Bolivia)
Audience Award, Natur Film Festival (Germany)
Special Jury Mention, International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights
Special Jury Mention, Festival Int. de Cine de Derechos Humanos (Argentina)
Special Mention, DocsDF (Mexico)
Silver Chris Award, Columbus International Film + Video Festival
Margaret Mead Film Festival
Vancouver International Film Festival
Mill Valley International Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Cleveland International Film Festival
Festival de Cine Verde de Barichara (Colombia)
Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano (Cuba)
Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival
Planete Doc (Poland)
Cinélatino Rencontres de Toulouse
Istanbul Documentary Days
Taiwan International Documentary Festival
Guanajuato International Film Festival (Mexico)
Addis International Film Festival (Ethiopia)
Festival Internacional de Cine de los Derechos Humanos (Mexico)
Cinema Ambulante (El Salvador)
Amnesty International Reel Awareness Human Rights Film Festival
Boom Festival (Portugal)
Tofino Film Festival (Canada)
Borneo Eco Film Festival
World Community Film Festival (Canada)
Semana de los Derechos Humanos (Costa Rica)
Todos Santos Film Festival
Muestra de Cine Internacional Memoria Verdad Justicia (Guatemala)
Central America/The Caribbean
Forests and Rainforests
Genetically Modified Foods
Latin American Studies
Migration and Refugees
Race and Racism
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... more Reviews
"Carefully and beautifully conceived, delicately shedding light on the plight of the Mayan communities in Mexico, and Central America in their fight against Canadian and American mining companies and genetically food producing companies like Monsanto...Powerful and eye-opening."
Rocío Reye, The Women's Press